1. The Polar Music Prize Ceremony
2. Musical Education
3. The official debut
4. Le miracle
5. Lieder
6. From music to art
2005 Laureate


The Polar Music Prize for 2005 is awarded to the baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau for his unique artistry in every area of classical singing and for his unparalleled achievements as a penetrating and innovative interpreter of art songs in the German language.


Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's nephew Dr. Thomas Fischer-Dieskau receiving the Polar Music Prize on his uncle's behalf.

Stockholm, May 2005

The 14th Polar Music Prize Ceremony was held at Konserthuset, Stockholm) in the month of May. The evening continued with a banquet in Vinterträdgården at Stockholm’s Grand Hôtel.

HM King Carl XVI Gustaf presented the Prize to the two Laureates Gilberto Gil and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

The citation for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was read by Swedish opera singer Håkan Hagegård and the citation for Gilberto Gil was read by world famous artist Jimmy Cliff.

unfortunately, due to health conditions Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau could not attend the ceremony in Stockholm. The Prize was received by  his nephew Dr. Thomas Fischer-Dieskau in his place.

Special arrangements of the Laureates’ music was performed by Kungliga Filharmonikerna and conductor Alan Gilbert together with an amazing line up of international and Swedish artists honoured the Laureates by performing their music both at the ceremony and banquet.

The event was broadcast live on Swedish national television (TV4).

Håkan Hagegård

Hillevi Martinpelto and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, "Morgen! Op. 27:4" at the Polar Music Prize ceremony.

Gilberto Gil, the other Laureate of 2005 with the Royal Family in the audience at the Stockholm Concert Hall.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau receiving the Polar Music Prize

Musical education

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was born on 28 May 1925 in Berlin, the youngest of three sons. His father, a classical philologist with a doctor´s degree, worked as a principal in a school, and his mother was a teacher. One of his ancestors was Chamberlain von Dieskau, for whom Bach composed his “Peasant Cantata” in 1742.

Fischer-Dieskau's talent for music was manifest at an early age. He took piano lessons and started to study singing in 1941 with Prof. Georg A. Walter. The following year he became a student of Prof. Hermann Weissenborn at the College of Music in Berlin. His first public appearance took place in 1942 at the church hall in Berlin-Zehlendorf, where he sang Schubert's Winterreise with interruptions for air-raid warnings of the on-going World War II.

Hochschule für Musik, Hardenbergstrasse, Berlin, 1937 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Dieskau family coat of arms. (Source: Siebmacher wappenbuch)

Official debut

After graduating from high school in 1943 he was called up for military service and spent the time until 1947 as a prisoner of war in Italy, where he continued with his singing studies on his own. Back in Germany, he resumed his studies with Prof. Weissenborn. His real career as a singer began in 1947 when, without prior rehearsal, he substituted for a soloist who had taken ill, in Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem in Badenweiler. The official debut as a singer took place in the autumn of 1947 with a song recital in Leipzig, and shortly after that he made a successful appearance at the Titania Palace in Berlin.

In 1947 he also made his first phonograph recording of Winterreise. In the autumn of 1948 he was engaged as a lyric baritone at the Städtische Oper in Berlin, where his first appearance, as Posa in Verdi's opera Don Carlos under the baton of Ferenc Fricsay, aroused a great deal of public attention.

Fischer-Dieskau's recording of Schubert's Winterreise with accompanist Gerald Moore. He also recorded the work with pianists Daniel Barenboim and Jörg Demus.

Verdi's Don Carlos

"Le miracle Fischer-Dieskau"

The critics praised time and again his exact and finely chiseled interpretations and the enormous wealth of nuances in his voice. As an opera singer Fischer-Dieskau performed mainly at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin and at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich.

He gave guest performances at Wiener Staatsoper in Vienna, Covent Garden in London, Staatsoper in Hamburg, the King´s Theatre in Edinburgh and also on a number of occasions in Japan. He toured the United States in 1955 and gave song recitals and concerts; his first appearance at Carnegie Hall in New York was in 1964. He gave his first song recital in Stockholm in 1959.

Deutsche Oper Berlin - sculpture by Hans Uhlmann on Bismarckstraße. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Christa Ludwig sings "Der Tod und das Mädchen" by Schubert


Being a lyric baritone and conductor of classical music, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is one of the most famous Lieder performers during the 20th century. "Lied" - "song" in German, usually describes the setting of romantic German poems to music, especially during the nineteenth century, beginning with Carl Loewe, Heinrich Marschner, and Franz Schubert. Among English speakers, "lied" is often used interchangeably with "art song" to encompass works that the tradition has inspired in other languages.

 The poetry forming the basis for lieder often centers upon pastoral themes, or themes of romantic love.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau set lasting standards for the interpretation of Lieder with the characteristic precision in his diction, in which the articulation of every word led to the equal importance of text and music. His efforts in the propagation of the mainly Romantic Lieder tradition were unbounded. Throughout the course of decades he has set higher standards, tried out new paths and interpreted undreamed-of human emotions.


"Morgen" by Strauss - Wolfgang Sawallish at piano, 1974

From music to art

On December 31st, 1992, Fischer-Dieskau brought to an end his public singing career of more than 45 years with a concert in Munich. In spite of this he continued to be active within music: a climax in his extensive work as a teacher was his master class of studies of the Wolf-Mörike songs at the Hugo Wolf Days in St. Paul, Austria, in 2004. In 2003 and 2004 he appeared as a conductor and reciter at the Salzburg Festivals, and in 2003 he finished writing his 15th book, a highly acclaimed biography of Hugo Wolf. In parallell with his musical career he also made time for “what I have always wanted to do”, and attracted some attention as a pictorial artist. From the 1980s and onwards, his paintings have been displayed at more than twenty exhibitions.

Paintings by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau: Portraits

Content of biography is presented here as it was published in 2012.

All pictures from the ceremony and the banquet by © Polar Music Prize.

In memoriam Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau 1925–2012.